Science journalist Margonelli to discuss ‘Small Termites and Big Ideas’

Lisa Margonelli with Poynter logo

Award-winning science journalist Lisa Margonelli will come to Yale on Thursday, Dec. 6 to talk about her recent book, “Underbug: An Obsessive Tale of Termites and Technology,” Her talk, titled Small Termites and Big Ideas,” will take place at 4:30 p.m. in Sage Hall, 205 Prospect St. The event will be taking place in Rm. 41C and is free and open to the public.

Margonelli grew up on a farm in Maine, an experience which heavily influenced her interest in science journalism. In 1993, she began working in journalism as an intern for Pacific News Service. She spent a number of years focusing on the oral histories of immigrant youngsters and the Pacific Rim. She also used her work in oral history as a way of writing about the internet; much of her work at the time was concerned with rapidly developing technology and tech startups.

Later, she would write about the way technology shifted the culture of San Francisco for San Francisco Magazine. Margonelli also has experience writing about more overtly political topics. She has also written about women’s rights and feminism for Jane magazine. During her time writing for that publication, she was sent to Saddam Hussein’s birthday party in Iraq. Over the course of her travels, she began to think about the role of oil in her everyday lives as well as geopolitics. This interest led her to write her first book, “Oil on the Brain.”

Her research on the topic led her to participate in activism as well. For six years, she worked with the New America Foundation as an Irvine Fellow, and then as a director of its energy initiative. The New American Foundation is a premiere U.S.-based, nonpartisan think tank that is focused on “confronting the challenges caused by rapid technological and social changes.” During her time there, she focused on transitioning away from oil and toward green energy.

Her most recent book, “Underbug: An Obsessive Tale of Termites and Technology,” came out in August of 2018. Her interest in the insect was piqued in 2007, when she met some scientists who were studying termites. Currently, she serves as the deputy editor of Zocalo Public Square, an Arizona State University magazine of ideas.

The Poynter Fellowship in Journalism was established by Nelson Poynter, who received his master’s degree in 1927 from Yale. The fellowship brings to campus distinguished reporters, editors and others who have made important contributions to the media. Among recent Poynter fellows are Chloe Veltman, Leslie Jamison, and Vinson Cunningham.

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